Former BBC web chief Ashley Highfield to run Johnston

The former editor-in-chief of BBC Online, Ashley Highfield, will replace John Fry as Johnston Press chief executive when he stands down later this year.

Fry is leaving the company on 31 October – just over two-and-a-half years after joining – and will be replaced by Highfield the following day.

Highfield is currently a vice president at Microsoft, where he is responsible for the UK consumer and online business. Before that he was director of new media and technology at the BBC, where he was responsible for the launch of the BBC’s iPlayer, and editor-in-chief of BBC Online.

‘His [Highfield’s] combined online and media sector pedigree will be a major strength in enabling us to grow our business again,’said Johnston Press chairman Ian Russell said.

‘On behalf of the board I would also like to thank John for his major contribution to the company and wish him well for the future.”

Fry first notified the board of his intention to stand down in March, shortly after the company announced that pre-tax profit had fallen by almost a third in 2010, while overall revenue dropped six per cent to £398.1m last year.

The company, which publishes the Scotsman and Yorkshire Post, also cut operating costs by £30.1m in the last financial year, which included reducing headcount by 9.2 per cent to 6,209 employees.

In the same year Fry took home £1.001m in basic salary and a performance-related bonus. He became chief executive of Johnston Press in January 2009, joining from the Archant newspaper group as a replacement for previous boss Tim Bowdler.

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